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Spain to pay for fertility treatment for lesbians, bisexual women and some transgender people

Spanish Health Minister, Carolina Darias, at press conference in La Moncloa, Madrid, Spain. (R. Rubio/Europa Press via Getty Images)
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Spain’s health minister on Friday signed an order making available free fertility treatment for women regardless of their sexual orientation or marital status, as well as for transgender people who can become pregnant.

The move, which Madrid said is likely to benefit some 8,500 people, was applauded by LGBTQ advocacy groups that have long called for the public health system to pay for procedures such as in vitro fertilization for individuals who can become pregnant. State-funded fertility treatment had previously been limited to heterosexual women who had trouble conceiving children, according to the Associated Press.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a self-declared feminist who leads the left-of-center Socialist Workers’ Party, has prioritized women’s and LGBTQ rights in his political agenda. About 60 percent of his cabinet ministers are women, one of the highest percentages in the rich world. He also used the language of women’s rights last month to pledge to outlaw prostitution, saying the practice “enslaves” women.

Some gay rights activists had called expanded access to fertility treatment a “red line” in their talks with the country’s governing coalition. The conservative People’s Party, which was then in office, had restricted state-funded fertility care to straight women with partners in 2014, with the then-health minister saying that she did not consider that “the lack of a man is a medical problem” that required assisted reproductive procedures.

ANALYSIS: Spain’s new cabinet is majority female. Here’s how unusual that is.

Speaking Friday, Health Minister Carolina Darias called the order a “restitution” of rights for single, lesbian and bisexual women, as well as transgender people.

These are “rights that should never have been taken away,” she said at a ceremony with activists.

The new order is “an example of how recognizing LGTBI rights means recognizing human rights for society as a whole,” said Uge Sangil, leader of a major Spanish gay rights group.

Spain was one of the world’s first countries to recognize same-sex marriage. And at a time when LGBTQ rights are under attack in European states including Poland, Hungary and Britain, Spain is again moving to become one of just a handful of countries that legally recognize gender self-determination.

Over the summer, the cabinet agreed on a draft bill that would permit those over 16 to legally change gender without having to seek approval from parents or doctors. The legislation has been sent to parliament for approval.

However, there is no universal consensus on gay rights. Vox, a far-right party that is the third-largest entity in Spain’s lower legislative chamber, has advocated the repeal of some anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people. The party has found success positioning itself as a radical alternative to mainstream conservatives.